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Brain-Computer Interfaces: Unlocking the Mind's Ctrl+Alt+Delete

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Farmington, CT. By Sudhiksha Kokkula

What are Brain Computer Interphases and how do they exactly work?

Imagine being able to operate gadgets and carry out tasks using just your thoughts, without needing to move your body. Though it might sound like science fiction, improvements in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are making this possibility a reality. Innovative technology known as BCIs capture brain impulses, evaluates them and then translates them into commands that communicate with other devices. BCIs have the potential to transform how we connect with technology, improve our capabilities, and potentially reshape the nature of employment as they develop. But how exactly do BCIs work, and what implications do they have for the workplace?

BCIs are intended to replace or recover functional function for those with disabilities brought on by illnesses like ALS, cerebral palsy, stroke, or spinal cord injury. BCIs give users the ability to directly control wheelchairs, robotic arms, prosthetic limbs, cursors, and more by directly accessing the electrical activity of the brain. They give people who have had strokes hope for recovery and help doctors conduct intricate treatments more effectively. BCIs allow people to act in the world without the constraints of their muscles by using brain impulses. However, it's essential to note that BCIs are not mind-reading devices—they interpret brain signals to facilitate communication and control.

BCIs function by harnessing the way our brains operate. The neurons that make up our brains are individual nerve cells connected to one another by dendrites and axons. Our neurons are actively involved whenever we move, feel, think, or recall something. These processes produce brief electric signals that move quickly—up to 250 mph—from one neuron to the next. These signals result from changes in the electric potential conveyed by the ions on the membrane of each neuron. A material called myelin insulates the signal pathways, but some electric signals still manage to escape. These signals are detectable and comprehensible by scientists, who can then use them to command remote objects. Furthermore, the procedure can be turned around. For instance, scientists have been able to interpret the information that the optic nerve sends to the brain when a person sees the color red. It is possible for a blind person to "see" the color red without using their eyes if a device like a camera is developed that mimics and sends these exact signals into the brain anytime it detects red.

BCIs can be classified into different types based on their invasiveness. Invasive BCIs require surgery to implant electrodes directly into the brain, providing highly accurate readings. While they provide the finest signal resolution, they also carry a risk of adverse reactions, the development of scar tissue, and significant health issues. On the other hand, semi-invasive BCIs entail implanting gadgets inside the skull but outside the brain. Compared to non-invasive BCIs, they provide better signal precision and resolution and provide a lesser risk of brain scar tissue formation. Most existing BCIs are non-invasive, utilizing techniques like electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor brain activity. These non-invasive BCIs, such as wearable headbands and earbuds, have found applications in assistive devices, orthoses, robotics, and prosthetics. They are also being explored for neurofeedback training to enhance cognitive performance and corporate wellness programs. Moreover, BCIs show promise in predicting user preferences at professional events and enable personalized experiences.

Brain-Computer Interfaces holds the promise of bridging the gap between the human mind and external devices, offering life-changing opportunities for people with disabilities and transforming the way we interact with technology. From invasive to non-invasive approaches, BCIs are expanding our understanding of brain signals and their applications in various domains. As this technology progresses, addressing ethical concerns, ensuring data security, and establishing guidelines that promote responsible and beneficial use. The future holds exciting possibilities where the power of our thoughts can shape the world around us.


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